Where to go? Attractions in Porto.
Porto is such a huge city and like all cities of its size, there are tons of things to see and do. You could spend 2 weeks there and yet fail to explore every nook and cranny of what this lovely city has to offer. I haven’t explored it extensively, but here are my top 5 suggestions.
Livraria Lello. If you’re a Harry Potter fan (can’t say that I am, since I didn’t read any of the books or watch most of the movies), you’ll know that the library in this series is an adaptation of the bookstore, Livraria Lello. It costs €4 to enter, which you purchase around the corner and is entirely redeemable if you buy a book. It’s always quite crowded though, so it’s probably difficult to take photos without tons of people in it. The architecture and craftsmanship that went into the staircase and ceiling are simply amazing though. Definitely worth a visit.
Dom Luís I Bridge. Probably the most famous bridge in Porto. There are two levels to this one. The upper level which is strictly for trams and pedestrians, and the bottom level which are for cars (and also pedestrians, but the walkway is a tad narrow). I would recommend climbing up to get to the upper level. You can do this via a hillside cable car (can’t quite remember the cost… I think it was €2 or something like that) or you can head up using the stairs by the side of the bridge near the riverside. You can get there from the city as well (instead of the riverside), which is highly recommended if you want to avoid climbing steep hills. The views from the bridge are amazing in both directions.
Palácio da Bolsa. Originally a palace for stock exchange built by the Commercial Association of Porto in the 19th Century. You will need to purchase tickets for a guided tour as they don’t allow you to wander through the palace without some sort of guide. There are guides that speak various languages, I believe, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get on the English tour. It’s got beautiful architecture and paintings especially. At times, some of the rooms seem opulent even. Definitely worth a visit if you’re into architecture and art.
Croft Wine Cellar. If there’s one product Porto is known for, it is port wine. Across the River Douro from where the main city of Porto is, is a whole collection of port wine cellars. If you’re interested in learning how port wine is made, the technology and history behind it, Croft Wine Cellar is a good place to go. There are guided tours in English and Portuguese and the guides are very knowledgeable. I had no idea there were so many factors involved in making wine! Of course, there are tons of other port wine houses within the vicinity so if Croft is a little too far to get to, you can try some others near the riverside.
Casa da Música. Essentially a concert hall, but with a design twist. I’m a musician so I’m quite interested in learning about structures like this one, the technology and acoustics behind it. I would say invest in the tour which costs €7,50 (there are English ones of course) because you get to see more of the building and all its rooms. Otherwise, there’s not much you’ll get to see without it. We couldn’t get into the concert hall itself because the orchestra was in the middle of practice, but nonetheless, it was quite nice getting the chance to see it from the rooms at the side.
Honestly though, there is just too much to see in Porto. I could return at least two more times and not be tired of seeing the river. I can’t imagine what it must be like living there with the river always in view. That would just be incredible. If you get a chance to visit Porto, take your time. If you can, try visiting a port wine vineyard. It’s one of the things that I really wanted to do, but unfortunately did not get a chance to. Perhaps next time.
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